Pentecost finds its roots in the Jewish tradition. The end of Passover comes after fifty days in the wilderness. During their Exodus from Egypt, God gave instruction to the Jews on how to live in correct relationship. Christians celebrate Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and helped bring the Christian church into existence. Still today it is a hypnotic surprise, you are in the midst of Pentecost everyday.
It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to pour out his Holy Spirit on all flesh, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power.
At the bottom of a classic Icon of Pentecost, there would be a small arch over an old man, crowned with arms extended, holding a draped cloth containing scrolls. It represents the Apostolic teaching handed down through the twelve tribes of Israel. He is Kosmos, meaning the “world.” One thousand years ago, traditional iconographers and those viewing their work would not have known the concept of being on a planet. I have replaced Kosmos with our planet Earth. Scientific discoveries, modern concepts and contemporary language have changed how humanity sees itself.
ANOTHER DETAIL OF PENTECOST ICONOGRAPHY IS THE POSITION OF MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS
They placed her at the very center of the icon, with six disciples on either side. Her gradual disappearance at the center was perhaps an example of relegating the power of women. Perhaps they found no theological need to include her, even though she is present in the Biblical text.
Of course, most women imagine their presences at the Baptism of Christ, in the river Jordan, at the Last Supper and Pentecost. They did not fully represent us in the theology, image or text. Christians believe the Holy Spirit was poured out onto all people and all of creation. We are the descendants who take part and experience divine power given to both males and females. In this icon, I have eliminated two of the disciples and the four “special” disciples. They would deck these figures in priestly stoles adorned with giant crosses, holding their gospel books. I have substituted them for six women.
WE ARE ONE BODY IN THE MIND OF GOD
The twelve apostles are special. The message is similar to the last supper where the twelve sit around Jesus. My question is, can we re-frame these biblical corner stones without reference to only men and only the twelve apostles? The twelve are singled out for wisdom, dedication or heroic acts as followers of our lord. But that can be said about many followers over the past 2,000 years.
By God’s grace, we deepen the message of Christ within ourselves, fine tuning it. Icons depict examples of exceptional people who love, champions of faith, and whose earthly lives are worthy of imitation. Salome, Bartholomew, Andrew, Luke, Mother Teresa, Mary Magdalene, Paul, Tabitha, Mark, Susana, James, and Martha sit together in harmony. The Saint or recognizable person is not the point of the icon. Rather, it illustrates our sitting together, in relationship, in peace and receiving the Holy Spirit all in God’s sight.